Published On: Tue, Apr 10th, 2018

Hoppy Easter

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For years, Easter, to me, was hiding eggs in the pre-dawn hours in the maritime forest of our small island home.  Then I’d pen a poem from the Easter bunny explaining what color eggs were for which of my three kids, two of which were color-blind and why so much emphasis was placed on egg colors they could actually see.  Easter was a light, fluffy introduction to summer.

My, how things have changed.

This Easter I met a pal out by the railroad station that features an artists’ market every Sunday.  Luckily for me I bought some fans for my Danzon students that I was able to give away to elderly women approaching heat stroke later in the day when I ran out of umbrellas.

From the railroad station Ernesto and I rode the rails.  By rode, I mean walked, rode implies a hobo lifestyle filled with fun and frolic featured in a Charlie Chaplin movie.  Our rails were simply hot and dusty as we approached a cross for the image of Miraculous Jesus of Good Health.

Miraculous Jesus of Good Health is an image of Jesus on the cross known for his, wait for it, miracles with good health.  His namesake church is in Ciengieta and his special day is every Easter.  Just off the road to the Leon airport by San Miguel Viego and the railroad is a cross decorated to be a meeting point for Easter pilgrims on their way to his namesake church.

First to arrive was Fr. Tony and his fellow bike riders.


 

Pictured is Fr. Tony with the vest stating “Priest” just in case you even considered running him down in your car condemning yourself to both prison and Hell.  The smoke in the image is copal, used to invite ancestors back to the celebration.

I was stunned any priest could fit in biker pants.  As a kid all priests and nuns were portly, long before it become standard in the States.  I recall my sisters asking what sins priests and nuns committed requiring weekly confession and without missing a beat my father replied “Gluttony”.

Not Fr. Tony!  He and his fit pals had a service, blessing and after enjoying free water and food, continued on their journey to Ciengieta, as the pilgrims from Santa Julia I passed on my way to the railroad station earlier arrived.

Here small groups of men sang ancient Easter songs of death and rebirth, received blessings, then food, before continuing on to Ciengieta.  At one point I carried St. Mike as he met the approaching pilgrims and their image of Jesus on the cross.  Blessings were exchanged to the four corners of the wind (an ancient indigenous practice) as my eyes narrowed in on a vendor selling umbrellas.

Having no idea an hours long pilgrimage was where Easter morning was leading and still suffering sunburn on my shoulders (through my shirt, curse that super-sensitive Irish skin) from Good Friday’s procession I was stoked to find umbrellas for sale.  Bought all I could afford and was eternally grateful.


 

After passing where the new gas station is being built we headed up the highway to Ciengieta which was surprisingly farther away on foot than by car.  Plus in a car you don’t notice what my Amish neighbors growing up called “road apples” left by pilgrims on horses that endlessly fascinated my six year old companion.  “Why so many?”  “What do they eat to pooh so much?”  I could only appease him by explaining that work for horses wasn’t carrying cowboys, or trotting.  Rather God made horses to pooh which fed the plants and these horses were very hard workers.

Along with statues, horses, dancers and music were the parandes.  Parandes are offerings shaped like long ladders made from cactus and laced with large loafs of bread.  Whatever family later took a parande home was responsible for proving another in next year’s procession.  Like praying to the four winds, many of the loafs featured four petal flowers symbolizing the circular nature of both life and faith.


 

The ever-present fireworks were featured to help, I was told, to keep the crowd tranquil and focused.  Frankly they only made me jittery and scattered brained but as the only foreigner around I probably wasn’t the target audience.

Finally we reached Ciengieta’s church lined with horses and Chichimecas (the indigenous hunter gathering tribe when the Spaniards arrived).  Despite towering over Chichimeca men they still sort of terrify me with their animal pelts, headgear featuring skulls and wicked cool make up.  Today there were all smiles each being somehow related to my pal, Ernesto.

We then crossed the highway to eat at the restaurant the gal that use to clean for me started a year ago to fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant.  She’s a great cook and I still enjoy spending time with her talking about both food and her family.

I was pleased to see her table plants featured St. Benedict medals I had given her to keep evil away.  I could also see by the pup tent she likely slept in at night to prevent folks from stealing her stove the medals weren’t really living up to their potential.

I lucked out hitching a ride back into town and was ever so glad to get back into my shady home with a dog that longed for a long Easter walk. That simply wasn’t going to happen.  Twice.

Offendra

Parande


 

JOSEPH TOONE JUNE 2016

Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series.  All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays.  Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA.  Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkingTours.com, and JosephTooneTours.com.

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